Limited uptake of the cyanobacterial toxin cylindrospermopsin by Vero cells

Toxicon. 2009 Nov;54(6):862-8. doi: 10.1016/j.toxicon.2009.06.019. Epub 2009 Jun 24.


Cylindrospermopsin (CYN) is a cyanobacterial toxin increasingly found in drinking water sources worldwide. Toxicity studies have shown CYN can induce effects in a range of different cell types with primary hepatocytes consistently shown to be the most sensitive cellular model. How CYN enters the intracellular environment is not clear, although the size and hydrophilic nature of the toxin suggest it would not readily cross a lipid bilayer. In this study, a Vero cell line expressing green fluorescent protein (GFP) was used to monitor for CYN uptake based on the toxin's potent effects on protein synthesis. Effects on the GFP signal were compared with inhibitors cycloheximide (CHEX) and emetine. While CYN potency was demonstrated in a cell-free system (CYN>CHEX>emetine) it was considerably reduced in the Vero-GFP cell model (CHEX, emetine>>CYN). In contrast to other inhibitors, CYN effects on GFP signal increased 6 fold over 4-24 h incubation indicating slow, progressive uptake of the toxin. Confirming that the uptake process is not energy dependent CYN entry also occurred at 4 degrees C, while competition experiments excluded the uracil nucleobase transporter system as potential mechanism for CYN uptake. Dilution of media enhanced CYN uptake by Vero-GFP cells although mechanism by which this occurred is unknown.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Alkaloids
  • Animals
  • Bacterial Toxins
  • Cell-Free System
  • Chlorocebus aethiops
  • Culture Media
  • Cyanobacteria / chemistry*
  • Cyanobacteria Toxins
  • Cycloheximide / pharmacokinetics
  • Emetine / pharmacokinetics
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Temperature
  • Uracil / analogs & derivatives*
  • Uracil / pharmacokinetics
  • Vero Cells


  • Alkaloids
  • Bacterial Toxins
  • Culture Media
  • Cyanobacteria Toxins
  • cylindrospermopsin
  • Uracil
  • Cycloheximide
  • Emetine